Crossdressing Satisfies Need to Fully Express Self By: MARY KLEIN Staff Writer PROVINCETOWN
Leslie, an attractive 33-year-old attorney from Philadelphia, is participating in the Fourth Annual Fantasia Fair, a nine day event for transvestites, bigenderists and transsexuals. Leslie, formerly known as Ralph, is also a transsexual who has been under hormone therapy for two years and plans to have an $8,000 sex-change operation this week. Leslie is only one of the 150 participants in this year's fair, which began in Provincetown Oct. 13. The fair was founded by Ariadne Kane, a crossdresser and executive director of the Outreach Foundation Inc. in Boston. The foundation is a nonprofit educational organization that offers confidential, professional counseling services for and information about crossdressers. Crossdressers can be found in every walk of life, and at every economic and social level. They are neighbors, friends, and often husbands and fathers. They share in common an overwhelming need to crossdress. "Crossdresser" is actually an umbrella label that covers those people who, through clothes, attempt to cross the line between masculinity and femininity. First experiences usually occur at preschool age, as a boy plays with mother's or sister's clothes. Cures sought in adulthood are seldom effective. Misconceptions about "crossdressers" are legion, Kane says. And although most people would assume they do not know any crossdressers, there is a good chance they do. Although there are women crossdressers, all participants in the fair in Provincetown have been men. During the past four years, fair participants have included accountants, bankers, physicians, psychologists, educational consultants, motel owners, a former Navy submarine commander, a former minister, an executive of a multi- million dollar corporation, a professional football player, a hockey player, grocery story owners, construction workers, lawyers, automobile salesmen and a commercial airline pilot. Crossdressers differentiate between "gender" and ''sex". Sex is the biological classification - male or female but gender, they believe, is defined by culture. It includes the different behaviors, mannerisms and social roles taught to boys and to girls and reinforced by society. ARIADNE KANE A transvestite is a crossdresser who considers himself fully male and masculine. He does not want to be a woman, but derives pleasure from wearing feminine clothes. Usually he is heterosexual. Transsexuals, like Leslie, want to be a female. Women's clothes are only one facet of a transsexual's experience. They say they feel like women and strive to learn feminine traits, including gestures, attitudes, and postures. "I feel a sense of relief and rightness about presenting myself as a woman," Leslie says. "I don't feel frustrated as a male, but it's an effort to act like a man. I would prefer to drop the pretense and be myself. My male identity is a false front." Psychologically, Leslie has been preparing for a sex-change operation for the past four years. "By the time you have the actual operation, it's just the icing on the cake." Ideally, a transsexual will live a year as a woman before undergoing the surgery. Leslie was recently divorced. She regards her marriage as "a last desperate attempt to live out my original gender role. People think marriage will be a magic cure." "My wife knows and accepts everything," Leslie continues. "She is a remarkable person with a career of her own. I love her as a person, but obviously our sexual relationship cannot be typical. I'm trying to establish some kind of normal life for myself, and I wouldn't deny her the same." In her future as a woman, Leslie does not foresee an ordinary marriage, primarily because she intends to pursue her career as an attorney under the name of Leslie Philips. She does hope for some kind of close relationship with a man. A third category of crossdresser is the "bigenderist," persons who say they have established separate selves, one masculine and one feminine. Often, a bigenderist has two separate names, and sometimes two distinct personalities. Bigenderists consider themselves men with two genders, not women trapped in a male body. Elanda, a bigenderist, relaxes in the lounge of the Crown and Anchor Motor Inn the convention site. She wears a well-tailored black skirt, a scarf, muted tone shirt and fashionable high black leather boots. In the "straight" world, Elanda, 53, is an engineer. In her native Germany she fought as a pilot and paratrooper during World War II. "We're not sissies. In the male world, we are fully male," Elanda says in her soft German accent. "We're not homosexuals. Some are, but I love women." Elanda says she is comfortable in her male role, but also needs her female role. Like the majority of crossdressers, Elanda has sought psychiatric help and has gone through tremendous guilt periods, which culminated in destroying all of her feminine clothes. But like most other crossdressers, she discovered that (the) psychological urge to dress in women's clothes is overpowering.